April 1, 2023

In October final yr, the Iraqi parliament accredited a brand new authorities with a mandate to jump-start political reforms. Amongst its priorities is the modification of Iraq’s problematic structure.

prime minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani made step one on this course of by appointing Hassan al-Yasseri as his constitutional advisor. In the meantime, the parliament has introduced that it’s going to type a constitutional revision committee.

This won’t be the primary time that Iraq makes an attempt to reform its structure because it entered into power in 2005. Constitutional revision committees had been fashioned in 2009 and 2019, however each of these efforts petered out, primarily on account of a failure to construct momentum. .

If this newest initiative is to achieve success, classes needs to be realized from the earlier failed makes an attempt to amend the structure, but in addition from optimistic examples of constitutional reform in different international locations.

An inclusive constitutional course of

When earlier Iraqi governments undertook constitutional reform, they closed off the overall inhabitants from the method. Some makes an attempt to be inclusive had been made, together with by a really small variety of consultations with civil society organizations, however these conferences had been unstructured, and the outcomes had been typically ignored. The discussions that befell had been restricted to elite circles, and no momentum or public curiosity was constructed across the course of.

If the brand new initiative is to work, a much wider vary of voices have to be included to assist constitutional negotiators decide the actual order of priorities, as an alternative of simply specializing in the identical points which were consuming them previously. This could and may occur by a lot of means, together with by encouraging Iraqis to precise their priorities en masse.

On this, the Iraqi authorities can comply with the instance of South Africa. When it launched a constitutional course of following the tip of apartheid, the South African authorities invited the overall inhabitants to precise their priorities in writing. Some 1.7 million submissions had been obtained, which the drafters took under consideration.

South Africans had been motivated to take part as a result of the related authorities led a profitable marketing campaign to generate curiosity within the course of and since there was a normal feeling that the structure might convey actual change to the nation.

In 2005, throughout Iraq’s personal constitutional course of, a public outreach physique was established but it surely got here to be dominated by one political social gathering – the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (then referred to as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) – which sought to skew the leads to its favour. Because of this, nobody took the initiative severely.

If such a course of is launched at this time, it should solid the online broadly and stay impartial from the principle political teams as a way to protect its credibility.

Inclusivity can’t simply be restricted to reaching out to as many individuals as potential at a horizontal degree. It’s also about giving the method extra depth, by offering specialist teams with decision-making authority on how the structure can and needs to be formed.

The instance of Kenya’s 2010 structure is instructive right here. In the course of the drafting section, a committee of specialists was given just about equal decision-making energy because the parliamentary committee. The tip consequence was a structure that allowed Kenya to make vital progress in strengthening the rule of regulation.

Certainly one of Iraq’s main flaws has at all times been that reform efforts are dominated by a small circle from throughout the political class, and that any enter from outdoors that small circle is usually ignored. That method of continuing has contributed to vital weaknesses in policymaking, a pattern that have to be overturned by permitting others to wield actual affect over the method.

Lastly, and simply as importantly, the negotiation course of itself have to be organized in a different way from earlier makes an attempt. The 2019 constitutional reform course of, which I had the prospect to witness personally, began on the unsuitable footing. The primary conferences of the related committees had been dedicated to discussing various wordings of particular provisions.

Committee members talked previous one another, as they every prompt particular sorts of modifications, ignoring no matter else was being stated. That method of continuing contributed to the sense that nothing could be achieved, which itself led to the method finally being deserted altogether.

That’s the reason, this time round, negotiations ought to begin as a dialogue between the totally different sides on what their pursuits are. It’s only after all sides understands the opposite’s pursuits that widespread floor might be explored to achieve a potential settlement. How particular person provisions are worded can come after that has been achieved.

Reforming the citizen-state relationship

In 2019, Iraq witnessed the most important standard rebellion within the nation’s historical past. The calls for of the protesters ought to have triggered political impetus to reform the connection between citizen and state, to deepen the safety of socioeconomic rights and to revolutionize Iraq’s anti-corruption framework.

As a substitute, the constitutional revision committee that was established targeted most of its consideration on debating the construction and system of presidency and paid little or no consideration to particular person rights and the state of public providers.

Any significant constitutional effort that’s undertaken in 2023 should handle standard grievances. One of many major issues Iraq has been experiencing all through its trendy historical past is that the structure theoretically supplies for civil and political rights, however doesn’t clearly point out what constitutes a respectable limitation of these rights and what doesn’t.

For instance, whereas freedom of expression is theoretically assured, the structure doesn’t present policymakers or the courts with any steerage as as to whether or not the appropriate to criticize public officers or accuse them of corruption is protected.

The absence of clear steerage has inspired policymakers to unreasonably prohibit rights and has robbed the courts of the instruments that they should curb government overreach. On this, Iraq might be taught from the expertise of different international locations, together with Tunisia’s 2014 structure, which explicitly offered that every one limitations of rights needed to respect the precept of proportionality, a progressive commonplace that’s spreading throughout trendy democracies.

Iraq must also be taught from different World South international locations, resembling Colombia, which have eradicated the excellence between civil and political rights on the one hand, and socioeconomic rights, on the opposite. This makes the appropriate to training, healthcare, housing, and different advantages instantly enforceable.

If Iraq had been to incorporate such provisions in its new structure, this could enable residents to convey claims within the courts within the occasion the federal government has did not fulfill its constitutional obligations to them. It might additionally enable the judiciary to order the federal government to take action. Such a transfer wouldn’t be a panacea for Iraq’s many socioeconomic issues, however it might be a step in the appropriate path.

Equally necessary is the structure’s oversight framework, which is ill-conceived, poorly worded and stuffed with contradictions. The structure’s extremely imperfect preparations have made it simpler for corruption to unfold by the state just about unchallenged.

Every of the nation’s major oversight establishments (the audit establishment, the anti-corruption physique and the courts) will want strong mandates and much better ensures of independence, together with better management over their budgets and the appointment of senior workers.

Federalism and type of authorities

Constitutional reform must also handle political challenges that the nation has confronted since 2003, which can even enable the state to focus extra of its consideration on the inhabitants’s urgent wants.

Specifically, Iraq’s federal system will stay a supply of instability except a brand new cut price is struck between the central authorities and the Kurdistan Regional Authorities. This concern would require the totally different political forces within the nation to barter a typical understanding of what federalism is meant to attain and construct an institutional relationship round that understanding.

Baghdad and Erbil should perceive one another’s core pursuits, develop artistic options that enable for these core pursuits to be defended and assured, and supply compromises the place applicable.

Above all, each side should perceive that federalism isn’t just a way to carve out decision-making authority throughout territory and political strains. Relatively, it’s a means by which social solidarity might be protected throughout the borders of a single nation.

The type of authorities in Iraq has additionally been introduced up for dialogue. Some political forces in Baghdad have known as for a transfer in the direction of a presidential or semi-presidential system. However previous expertise in Iraq, and up to date expertise in international locations resembling Tunisia, show past doubt that instantly elected presidents invariably search to monopolize decision-making (and often succeed) with none significant enchancment within the nation’s governance.

That end result is neither fascinating nor potential in a rustic resembling Iraq. Certainly, a transfer towards better presidential energy will probably by no means be accepted by lots of the nation’s major political teams. Because of this, any dialogue of the system of presidency ought to focus not on the best way to give a chief government extra authority, however on the best way to transfer in the direction of a extra profitable type of parliamentary democracy.

Iraq faces a lot of overwhelming challenges and attempting to deal with them by the identical strategies which have failed previously won’t obtain something. A brand new method is important, a extra inclusive one, and one which focuses on the pursuits of the inhabitants as a complete, and never simply the pursuits of the political class. If that may be achieved, Iraq may have come a good distance in the direction of actually turning the web page.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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